Sunday, January 21, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Arthritis and Me

I have had a sore knee for a long time.

When I was doing rehab after my brain injury they asked me to do exercises such as sit to stands and squats and I had a horrible time because of pain, not just neuro issues. That would be when we finally got an x-ray of my knee and I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

I have spent a long time walking with a bad gait and frankly it never did get quite normal. My knees and hip have taken a real beating. I tend to stand with all my weight on my "good right side".  I tend to twist a little on my hip as I walk and I kind of thud down on that right leg because I don't totally trust that my left leg will support me even though there is no good reason to think it won't now. I am a heavy person and have been since I was a child. My father had bad arthritis. The result of all these risk factors is that  I now have arthritis in both knees and my right hip as well as a bit in my lower back.

I have done a lot to keep the arthritis under control over the years but it just keeps getting worse.  I tried using a knee brace about 6 years ago and that was not all that helpful. I found it very uncomfortable and they are harder to fit properly on a heavier leg. I tended to be moving both legs kind of funny when I walked and it just was a bad treatment for me at the time.

I have been going to exercise classes and I find the water programs for people with arthritis to be especially helpful.

I do try and pace myself and sit and rest my leg when I need to be that isn't always easy. One of the issues that the arthritis help sites talk about is severe fatigue. I would say that is one of my issues continuing from the brain injury too. This makes it doubly harder for me to willingly exercise a lot or work on loosing weight - both of which would ultimately help with the same fatigue and the joint issues.

The past year or two my hip pain in particular has gotten really bad. I had a fall at work just over 2 years ago and it was like someone turned on a pain switch. My hip really didn't bother me much until that point.  I suddenly had a lot of inflammation and pulled muscles that eventually settled down with time and physiotherapy but the pain never totally went away. The arthritis in my hip has progressed rapidly over the past year and now the pain is constant and severe.

I have had cortisone injections in my knees and right hip over the past 18 months. The first hip one felt like a miracle but at about 7 months it wore off. The second one only lasted about 4 months and the last time it only took the edge off.

My family doctor, as well as the sports medicine specialist that I have been seeing, told me I needed to get on the waiting list for joint replacements. It is a long wait around here to see an orthopedic surgeon, never mind the long wait for the actual surgery.  I saw the surgeon last week and despite the fact that I am considered a higher surgical risk we are going ahead with the hip surgery.

My plan is to get myself in the best shape I possibly can before this surgery.  I am still focusing on  leading a healthy life.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Enjoying Knut's Day

Our family celebrates Knut's Day. -- because it is fun!

Knut's Day is a holiday celebrated in Sweden, Finland and Norway on the 20th day after Christmas and marks the final day of the Christmas Holiday season. It was more popular in the past but we still love the idea.

Taking down the tree is kind of a sad ending to a happy season. I knew of the tradition of Knut's Day from my Swedish father. I don't think he ever celebrated it himself but he certainly was aware of the holiday. Mainly my Dad was all about the music so I think he learned the traditional song for Knut's Day.

When the kids were little we had a few New Years when we took down the tree and it turned into kind of a sad day for the kids and me too. We talked about waiting to take the tree down on 12th night or Epiphany but we decided to embrace the Swedish Holiday Season of starting with Lucia Day and ending with Knut's Day on January 13th.

Basically this holiday is the day when Christmas is to be removed from the house. In Sweden the tree would have been covered with a bunch of edible decorations and on this day the children get to plunder the tree and eat the goodies and smash the gingerbread houses. They might even visit neighbours looking for treats, kind of like Halloween. The Christmas alcohol was to be consumed and Christmas baking and other Christmas foods were to be eaten in a bit of a party.  The family would sing a traditional song and dance around the tree. In one strange but happy action the tree was carried and thrown out the window!

In a few parts of Sweden the evening came and neighbours carried the old trees to a central area for a community bonfire. Music and fun brings the Christmas Season to an end.

My little version is to take off most of the breakable ornaments from our tree and replace them with some candy and edible ornaments like candy canes and foil covered chocolate ornaments. My Grandkids can go at it! We also enjoy a somewhat Swedish meal--- Thank-you IKEA for your meatballs! lol

The last of the decorations are taken off and the lights are removed and then we do indeed throw the tree out -- but we use our door.  In a couple days we haul it off to a community recycling depot where people can trade their trees for woodchips. The trees are ground up and used for landscaping and making trails in our city's parks.

 Christmas season is over and we are left with many great memories. The last verse of the old traditional song for Knut's Day kind of says it all. The tree and other symbols of Christmas leave our homes but we know that Christmas will come again next year.

Christmas has come to an end,
And the tree must go.
But next year once again
We shall see our dear old friend,
For he has promised us so.

Click here for more of the Swedish and English lyrics

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Gingerbread Houses and Grandkids

My son called me up last week to tell me that the grandkids were complaining about missing out on building Gingerbread Houses at Grandma's house. We have done houses together most if not every year but I somehow missed that it was a tradition for the kids.

We had the kids over this past Sunday and their Mommy and Daddy got a much needed chance to go on a date to a movie. Making gingerbread houses seemed like an appropriate  way so spend Ukrainian Christmas.

We had a nice dinner and then quickly cleared the table so that we had lots of rooms for gingerbread houses, 4 kids and extra candies! Grandpa had gone to the store and purchased a wide assortment of extras but there was one very special bag with assorted jujubes. We had raspberries, coke bottles and most special of all we had Christmas Sharks.

When my kids were little I used to make the dough and chill it, make sticky royal icing and make cardboard trial versions to use as patterns. It was time consuming and took days really but it was worth the effort. I even made gingerbread houses and gingerbread men with children at my kids schools. It was lots of fun but due to time and minimal kitchen resources we did graham cracker houses based on milk cartons. When we did Gingerbread men with older kids I was amazed how a cookie cutter man and lady suddenly could be dogs, aliens with multiple limbs and funny head shapes and some cookies would be holding hands as BBF.

A generation later the supermarkets have a good selection of ready made kids. Premade gingerbread, bags of icing and a nice start to the candy decorations. The grandkids are aged 11 to 2 so it is just easier to set everyone up and go for it. The house above is what the 7 year old boy did. The shark is edging around the corner to surprise the gummy bear. lol

The older kids were much more detail orientated this year for example look at all the icicles. Next year I want to try and get the two older ones over to make cookies from scratch and plan the style of house they want to build. They would love doing that. Then we could add the other two kids the following day and still all decorate the houses together.

The almost 3 year old was so funny. Her shark tried to eat me and swam all over the plate and the table and jumped over the houses. She also had a moment when she started to cry because of her mucky hands but then aunty told her to stop fussing and just lick them. Well my goodness! Icing is edible, the candy was edible but not sure she figured out the gingerbread was yummy but she kept licking it. It is so funny to be almost 3.

We had a special visit from Batman,  to check out the Gingerbread. He approved!

Monday, January 8, 2018

I had prepared a post about goals and planning but when I saw this TED Talk by Matt Cutts.  I thought this seemed like an interesting idea that I wanted to explore further.
I had made an effort through December to post daily. It did not happen.  I did post more frequently and I posted a lot more than before about my love of holidays and  I shared a lot more about my everyday life during December. I feel like that was a positive change. It also reminded me how much I like taking pictures and blogging.

This Ted Talk did not strike me as being just about goal setting or doing what is needed or even particularly self improvement. What struck me is that this might be more of a challenge to try something new and push through our comfort levels. If you give a project/change a try for 30 days and find you don't enjoy it... then you just learned something more about yourself and can move on. Maybe you will discover that you can say with pride "I did it!" even if you never want to do it again. Maybe you will find a new passion you want to pursue.  I love the idea of taking something I have tried briefly in the past and devoting a month to take it to the next level.

I do want to add that even with a one month project I still recommend using SMART goals. Check out the link to my blog post on the topic.

What shall we choose to try in next month?

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Nutcracker Ballet

My 9 year old granddaughter had a wonderful opportunity. She is a recreational student at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and this year she had the opportunity to be one of the children performing in the ballet's professional troop performance of the Nutcracker.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is famous as one of the world's premier dance companies. Not only is it the oldest dance company in Canada, it is the oldest continuously operating company in North America! 

The Ballet has a top cast of fantastic dancers for this annual Canadian version of the Nutcracker. They have a lot of touches that bring humor and interest and catch the attention of the families and children that attend the performances. We see everything from hockey playing at the beginning to a huge goofy dancing bear and fantastic props. The recreation kids are able to audition in the fall to have a part in the Nutcracker. They have 2 sets of kids on altering nights, including parts as children at the party, reindeer, mice, polar bears and little angels. The difficulty level is quite varied for the different roles so little dancers of different ages get a true taste of what it is like to be part of a professional production.

My Granddaughter auditioned last year and was chosen to be one of the baby polar bears in a scene. This year she was cast as one of the adorable little angels. The young dancers had many extra rehearsal days, fittings with a real wardrobe department and fun learning  to be part of a professional show with an audience of over 2000 per night for all of their 8 night run. What a thrill as grandma to see our little girl up on the stage.

Here is a video I found from 2015 to give you a little taste of the Nutcracker, Royal Winnipeg Ballet style!

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